Profiles » Clair George
Clair George Deputy Director for Operations
The third in command at the Central Intelligence Agency, Clair George served as the CIA deputy director for operations from 1984 through 1987. As a result, he was one of a small number of U.S. officials to know of both the aid to the Contras and the arms-for-hostages swap with Iran. He also knew which other officials shared that knowledge and were lying in their statements to Congress.
After Congress authorized humanitarian aid to the Contras, President Reagan set up the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office to administer it, and the NHAO based its aid delivery flights from the nearby Ilopango air base in El Salvador. Former CIA Agent Felix Rodriguez, who was involved in the covert network of Contra supporters run by NSC staff member Oliver North and the Enterprise, also based his operations at Ilopango. Rodriguez ultimately took control of both the humanitarian and the illicit operations and blended them into one, using the same planes and pilots. When one of these flights was shot down, the pilot testified that the CIA was involved and that he reported to “Max Gomez,” an alias for Rodriguez.
Shortly before testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October 1986, George’s office received a cable that stated Gomez was Rodriguez. However, CIA official Alan Fiers, Jr., recalled that George told him not to divulge this fact, and George withheld this information in his own testimony. He also told Senator John Kerry (D-MA) at the hearing that he had heard of Richard Secord, an Enterprise businessman involved in arms sales to Iran, but had never met him. Just days later, George testified to similar facts before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and a month after that before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
However, the following April, before the Senate Select Iran-Contra Committee, George admitted that he recalled Secord's presence at a meeting in January 1986, proof that he had met him. Although George attempted to claim that he had not actually been involved in the drafting of his congressional opening statements, his fingerprints and handwritten notes on drafts of the testimony proved that he was. This was underscored by Fiers’s own recollection of George’s stated intention to mislead Congress.
As a result, Walsh charged George with a number of counts for lying to and withholding information from Congress. Although George’s first trial ended in a mistrial, Walsh decided to go back to Court with seven charges. They included false statements about his relationship with Secord, his knowledge of Rodriguez’s identity and involvement, and perjury regarding his role in drafting his statement.
Ultimately, a jury acquitted him of five counts, but found him guilty of false statements before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding Rodriguez’s role in supplying the Contras and of committing perjury before the Senate Select Iran-Contra Committee about Secord’s involvement in arms sales to Iran. However, before George could be sentenced, President George H.W. Bush pardoned him in 1992.